If a friend crashes my car, do Pennsylvania negligent entrustment laws apply?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 12, 2012

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According to Pennsylvania law, you can be sued for loaning your car to a friend under a theory known as negligent entrustment. A car owner is legally responsible for the negligence of a driver if the owner loaned the car to the driver knowing that he or she would drive recklessly. But this liability may depend on whether the owner has opted into or out of Pennsylvania’s no fault insurance system.

Examples of Negligent Entrustment

  • Lending a vehicle to minor children who just obtained their license but do not have experience in rush hour traffic or expressway driving; 
  • Lending a vehicle to potential drivers who are visibly intoxicated or drugged; or
  • Lending a car to a friend for racing or other reckless purposes. 

The mere fact that you lend a vehicle to someone who then gets in an accident does not mean that you are liable. Your liability will depend on the circumstances.

Under Pennsylvania law, if a claim is made against you based on negligent entrustment, your insurance company will likely cover the accident and pay for the damage caused by the negligent driver. But you, as the car owner, might be facing higher premiums in the future for your insurance.

How Choice No-fault Insurance Factors In

Car accidents in Pennsylvania are also complicated by the fact that the state is a “choice no fault state,” which means choice no fault insurance rules apply. When you purchase car insurance, you have the obligation to opt into or out of the choice no fault insurance system. If you opt into the no fault system, claims and liability may be more limited. Those who opt into the choice no fault insurance system can neither sue another driver, nor be sued, in the event of a car accident. To determine your potential liability, you will need to check your insurance policy to determine if you chose this “choice no fault” or “limited tort” coverage. 

Because negligent entrustment situations are complex, especially in light of the choice no fault insurance rules, it is always in your best interests to contact an experienced car accident attorney if you face potential liability. 

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